The Pittsburgh Pirates were busy on Saturday afternoon besides making the trade for Sean Rodriguez. They also claimed right-handed pitcher George Kontos off waivers from the San Francisco Giants. To make room on the 40-man roster for Rodriguez and Kontos, both Jhan Marinez and Danny Ortiz were designated for assignment.
Wade LeBlanc has been reinstated from the bereavement list as well. No move has to be made for LeBlanc on the 25-man roster because Rodriguez has time to report to the Pirates.
Kontos is a 32-year-old reliever, who has pitched 307 games over the last seven seasons, with six of those seasons spent with the Giants. He was originally a name included in the Xavier Nady/Damaso Marte deal with the Yankees back in 2008. Interestingly enough, a second name originally included in that deal was Phil Coke, who pitched for the Pirates last year.
Kontos is making $1.75 M this season and will have two years of team control left, so he gives the Pirates a possible bullpen arm through the end of 2019. This season, he has a 3.83 ERA and a 4.02 FIP in 51.2 innings over 50 appearances, with 17 walks and 55 strikeouts. He has a 1.61 GO/AO ratio, which is well above his career average, both during his time in the minors and in the majors. The 9.6 SO/9IP ratio is also the highest of his career, but more grounders and strikeouts haven’t led to better results. For his career, he has a 3.05 ERA over 315.2 innings and a 3.72 FIP.
Marinez has a 3.18 ERA in 34 innings over 24 appearances with the Pirates, but he has a 4.56 FIP to go along with that low ERA. He also has a 1.35 WHIP and 26 strikeouts.
Danny Ortiz is hitting .259/.291/.450 in 86 games with Indianapolis. He has hit 12 homers this year and 17 in each of the previous two seasons. Ortiz played nine games for the Pirates earlier this season.
UPDATE 3:26 PM: Analysis from Tim Williams…
I like the addition of Kontos, and I like it a lot more than Joaquin Benoit. For one, Kontos has been a better reliever, and will be a better option as a workhorse in the middle innings. But the Pirates also have him under control for the 2018 and 2019 seasons, adding depth to future bullpens. I’ve written that I don’t think their chances this year are strong. That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be adding this year. But it makes sense to add players in deals like they’ve made today, where they’re getting guys for beyond the current season.
I’d say that Kontos could be a really big pickup for them if he finds a way to cut his home run problems down (current 17.8% HR/FB rate vs a career 9.8% mark), but that hasn’t really been the Pirates’ specialty this year, and really has been an issue all across baseball. Even with that, he has a 3.83 ERA and 3.55 xFIP. Those marks would make him the third best reliever in this bullpen, behind Felipe Rivero and Juan Nicasio. Third best isn’t a high praise, so I’ll say “easily third best” to show that he has fairly good numbers.
One fun fact here: When the Pirates traded Xavier Nady to the Yankees, they received Jose Tabata, Ross Ohlendorf, and a choice of a pair of players. They could either take Jeff Karstens and Daniel McCutchen, or George Kontos and Phil Coke. They went with Karstens/McCutchen. However, they added Coke last year, and now have Kontos. So they eventually got all four pitchers. And if Neal Huntington says that they’ve been looking at Kontos for a long time, you’ll know it’s true.